The American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies deplores the murder of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department on 25 May 2020. This death, and the losses of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and a tragically long list of other Black Americans in recent years is cause for despair, especially because the story is not a new one. As those of us who study the eighteenth century know, today’s racialized violence in North America was prefigured by the eighteenth-century institutions of slavery and the slave trade and the practices of settler colonialism. In its response to the ongoing crises that this bitter inheritance has provoked, the Society is working to build a more inclusive intellectual community, and to act on our responsibilities as educators and public intellectuals.
ASECS therefore resolves to keep these troubling aspects of our eighteenth-century legacy in the forefront of our common work going forward, both in our annual meetings and our journals and other publications, and in our interactions with our students and other members of our educational communities and the public. There is of course much to celebrate in the artistic, intellectual, and political legacies of the period we study, but our passion for those aspects of the eighteenth century should never blind us to its injustices. Only a full consideration of this past, with its cruelties and inhumanities placed alongside its achievements and advances, will provide the necessary historical perspective as we collectively navigate present traumas and future uncertainties.
For those wishing to learn more about the historical roots of our current crises and for resources on teaching, the Society is compiling a list of resources, which may be found at https://www.asecsteachingthe18thcentury.org/resourcesforteachingracism. To recommend additional resources, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.]